Windermere neighbors head to court amid decade-long war over dock, security cameras

Article Courtesy of  The Orlando Sentinel

By Caroline Glenn

Published March 26, 2020


Michael Floyd had just gotten off a plane at the Orlando airport when he was arrested and booked into the Orange County jail. His next-door neighbor had told authorities that Floyd was cyberstalking him using the security system Floyd had installed at his home on Lake Butler.

Prosecutors later dropped the charges, but they have spurred Floyd to file a federal lawsuit claiming his neighbor pressured authorities to pursue a baseless criminal case stemming from a yearslong feud between the two men over their million-dollar lakeside Windermere properties. In the suit filed in U.S. District Court, Floyd said he suffered “physical and mental pain and suffering, humiliation and harassment resulting from his arrest and prosecution.”

Just a few months after Floyd purchased the two-acre lot next door to Zachary Stoumbos in late 2010, the two became embroiled in civil and criminal court battles.
Floyd, who lives most of the year in Ireland, alleges Stoumbos has harassed him for years, trespassing on his property, tampering with his security cameras and lying to state authorities about him. The suit demands more than $75,000.

Meanwhile, Stoumbos, a criminal attorney with offices in downtown Orlando, claims the cameras on Floyd’s property invade his and his wife’s privacy and has complained about radios blaring loud music that have “deprived (his) family of the quiet and peaceful enjoyment of their property," Stoumbos said in a previous court filing.

In a letter to the assistant state attorney who oversaw the dismissed stalking case, Stoumbos wrote that Floyd “may be a very dangerous man.”

Dispute over Orange County duplex has 'snowballed out of control' as owners pursues federal suit.

“Obviously the case is going to be aggressively defended,'' Dennis O’Connor, an attorney representing Stoumbos, told the Sentinel. "Mr. Stoumbos did not do anything wrong here. It’s just a continuation of a long-standing, recurring dispute between these two landowners. Mr. Stoumbos is a well-regarded, 30-year attorney who didn’t do anything wrong.”

Floyd’s attorneys did not return requests for comment.

In the federal lawsuit, Floyd describes how he says the dispute began in March 2011 when he filed a request to build a new, bigger boat dock on his property. Because it would be larger than zoning allowed, he needed Stoumbos’ approval. Despite several requests, Stoumbos would not give his OK, prompting Floyd to build a smaller deck.

Floyd had bought the Lake Butler property three months earlier with plans to build a new house on land now valued at $1.5 million, according to the Orange County Property Appraiser. Stoumbos’ adjacent lot is valued at about $2.5 million.

It was after that first disagreement that Floyd said he spotted Stoumbos trespassing on his property, prompting him to install motion-activated cameras on the dock. But not long after, Floyd said somebody stole the memory card. So he installed additional equipment on the dock and hung up signs that said “private property” and “no trespassing." He also hired an attorney to tell Stoumbos to stay off his property. Stoumbos responded, demanding Floyd take down the cameras.

Floyd then added more cameras around his property and Stoumbos sent another letter insisting Floyd remove them, arguing they were an invasion of his privacy. Floyd, through his attorney, told Stoumbos the cameras were not operational and only meant to deter trespassers. Stoumbos wasn’t convinced and sued Floyd in Orange County court in 2012.

In mediation meetings the warring neighbors compromised in a written agreement so that Floyd could construct a larger dock, the suit states, and briefly, the two appeared to be getting along. Floyd repaired Stoumbos’ sea wall, and Stoumbos showed Floyd a condo he owned in Ponce Inlet. According to the lawsuit, Stoumbos tried to sell Floyd the condo, and when he declined, Stoumbos called him and used “offensive language.”

Floyd and Stoumbos’ momentary peace seemed to halt in January 2014 when Stoumbos sought an emergency injunction from the court to force Floyd to remove loud radios he had recently placed around his property. The radios, which Floyd said were set up to scare away animals damaging his dock and keep out intruders from his shed, played from early in the morning to late at night all week, Stoumbos claimed, blaring music for “no legitimate purpose and clearly to annoy and harass” him.

The court ordered Floyd to lower the volume of the radios and limit how often they played. Claiming that Floyd ignored the court order, Stoumbos called the police and the Orange County Sheriff’s Office filed charges with the State Attorney’s Office for “breach of peace."

Stoumbos requested that the State Attorney also file stalking charges against Floyd.

In December 2014, Floyd was arrested at the airport and was later released on a $6,750 bond.

Meanwhile, the two men were still in a lengthy legal battle over the size of Floyd’s dock, which Stoumbos now argued was bigger than they had agreed to. Stoumbos also alleged they had verbally agreed to where Floyd would build his new home and the positioning of his security cameras, which Floyd denied. A judge ultimately ruled that Floyd had exceeded the agreed-upon size of the dock, but it also said Floyd wasn’t bound by the oral agreement that Stoumbos claimed existed.

Stoumbos, the suit states, continued to pressure authorities to seek harsher charges.

“My wife and I are in constant fear for both our privacy invasion and safety. We are extremely concerned that Mr. Floyd continues to harass and intimidate us despite past civil injunctions and his recent arrest on the aggravated stalking warrant,” Stoumbos said in a letter to Assistant State Attorney David Fear, who had been assigned to prosecute the case. “Clearly, he is undeterred by both the law and the courts, which indicates he may be a very dangerous man.”

With Stoumbos’ urging, Floyd said the court attempted to revoke his bond and prosecutors proceeded with a criminal case against him.

Floyd said Fear told the court the cameras in question were “all 360-degree capability and I have personally witnessed cameras turning to follow me as I walked along with them.” Prosecutors also recruited Michael West, who had installed Stoumbos’ own security system, to weigh in as an expert witness for the case, Floyd said, but he was later let go when it was discovered he was an ex-felon and was “not usable as an expert.”